In her quest to replicate the feelings of warmth and happiness of a recent family trip, photographer Wendy Laurel soaks her vacation photographs in acidic fluids and intentional light leaks. Here, she shares the story behind her eye-catching photographs.
It’s no secret that I LOVE color and that I LOVE pushing the boundaries and experimenting creatively with film photography. This year for our summer vacation I shot 14 rolls of 35 mm film on two cameras: my Fuji Klasse W and my Lomo LC-A+. Both cameras are point-and-shoot and fit in my pocket. (That is so key when traveling with kids.) I also shot one roll on my Holga.
I got back to Maui and immediately destroyed all my vacation photos. Seriously. I wanted to experiment with color so I took half of them and made "film soup." And the other half I double exposed with different colors and lights. Also, while I was shooting the rolls, I light leaked certain rolls (sort of painting the film with light). There were some successful experiments and some utter failures. All of this is film. There is no photo editing done on these images. The colors are from light or chemicals I exposed my film to. It was all in camera or hands on.
I have 200 keepers but the photos in this article are the highlights of my results and some of my favorites. We were in Berkeley, San Francisco, the doctor's office at UCSF (where some of my favorites were made), and Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
Basically, I do all this in an effort to make the photos evoke more emotion. The light streaks, the pink in the sky — these visual elements hit some nerve in me which make me happy and emotional. I can feel those colors. What do you feel?
So many people have asked me, what is film soup? How did you do that? Believe me, it's not anything I invented. There are lots of blog posts about film soup on this website. Basically, film soup is soaking your film in chemicals. You can do this before shooting or after. I have much better luck with after shooting but emotionally, it's a little hard knowing I might be destroying good images.
I have soaked my film in many different substances including soap, dishwasher detergent, lemon, vinegar, Gatorade, curry, and cough medicine. Some folks use alcohol. I also shot many different kinds of film and I found that the sort of film you use makes a difference. Cheaper films seem to have a bigger reaction. Some of my rolls had pieces of the emulsion stripped off. Some films lost their color.
The way I did it was the following:
- Shoot the film normally.
- Leave the 35mm leader out (can pull it out or set your camera to leave it out).
- Take the film and put it in a jar of boiling water and whatever acidic thing I wanted (lemon and soap or vinegar or curry or Gatorade or whatever).
- Leave it in for one hour and shake it up occasionally.
- Rinse it thoroughly.
- Let it dry (can take up to 2 weeks or dry yourself in a dark room).
- Send to a film lab (If you can find one, check with them first, or develop at home).
There are tons of other ways to do this. This is just what I did.
The other issue is the lab. No lab really wants to deal with film soaked in chemicals. It ruins their chemicals. So you have to develop yourself or rinse and dry your film really well yourself (if you have a dark room) or beg your lab to help you out. (Goodman Film Lab did an awesome job on these rolls BUT they do NOT want any more film soup).
Anyway, for me, this was a successful experiment. I love my photos. I can feel our vacation. And I learned a whole lot from my failures. Thanks for looking.
All information and images found on this article were provided to Lomography by Wendy Laurel and were used with her permission. Head to her website or LomoHome to see more of her photographs and other film soup experiments.